The Basics of Outdoor Lighting
When tackling lighting, it is important to know some basic things about the process and the materials.
How Much Does Outdoor Lighting Cost?
With lighting, it is said that you get what you pay for. You may like how one product is so much cheaper than the rest, but the quality will also be cheaper than the more expensive options. If that is good with you, then you can buy what you’d like, but this is something to make note of.
Understanding the Different Types of Outdoor Lighting
Another major thing to know are the different types and styles of outdoor lighting. To start off with, there are three categories of lighting types: solar-powered, low voltage, and line voltage lighting.
Line Voltage Lighting
Line voltage lighting is the most finicky and difficult of the three to install, and more often than not requires a licensed technician, so this post will not be going over the line voltage lighting style.
The solar-powered lighting is a popular, low-maintenance route to go as a result of needing no wiring or wiring knowledge, but these are only good in places that get six to eight hours of sun a day. Luckily, Flagstaff is usually clear sky as opposed to cloudy, so depending on the layout of your yard this may be a viable option for you.
Low Voltage Lighting
The low voltage lighting is the alternative, with wiring and more installation knowledge required. Low voltage lighting requires a transformer to lower the voltage, so as long as you can get that working, according to the instructions, and lay out your yard properly, this is a secure option to go with, especially if your yard is shaded by a lot of trees and doesn’t get a lot of sun.
Understanding the Different Styles of Outdoor Lighting
The most popular for walkways are the canopy-style lights that you see with gardens. The bulbs are sheltered from the top by a little canopy, and can also light a wide space around it easily as a result.
Another popular kind of walkways are downlighting lights, which focus a beam of light from down above. These are usually fixed twenty or so feet above the ground.
Another style recently growing in popularity are string lights, whether this be Christmas-style lights or globe lights. These require a bit more creativity to light well, but can be very ambient when pulled off.
How to Install Outdoor Lighting in Your Yard
One of the most important parts to consider when installing ambient lighting and walkway lighting is budget. You want to get the most bang for your buck, but you also don’t want to go bankrupt. Consider the options that you have. One lighting type may be a bit more expensive, but also lasts a lot longer, so it may be better to go with that option. Or maybe you don’t want the LED bulbs, that are a bit more expensive, and you’d rather stick with the more natural-looking halogen bulb. Make reasonable compromises, but don’t compromise the integrity of your yard or your electrical work.
With solar lighting, the main thing to consider, besides how much light you’ll get, is distance. Since there are no wires connecting the posts, you can place the solar lights with more flexibility. One main thing is to keep lights six inches or closer to the pathway you want to light, or the object you want to illuminate. You should also keep the lights a fair distance apart. Some people suggest ten to twenty feet, but this will depend on the light type you use and the type of bulb that you use. LED is an option, but most technicians recommend halogen bulbs for outside lighting due to the brightness of LED being rather strong and the amount of energy required for LED versus halogen bulbs. Of course, if the lighting post you buy specifies a certain type of bulb, always go with what the package says.
For low voltage lighting, you need to work around wires and the transformer, and as a result you need to plan out your lighting layout before you plant anything down. Lay the lights in an arrangement to see if that is the layout you would like, and then stake them into the ground. Dig shallow trenches to bury the wires in, and no one will know the difference. The most important thing is planning. If you end up not liking a layout, but you’ve already started the process of planting and burying your wires, you’ll have to pull it all up and start over, which is fun for no one.
Installing ambient lighting is a bit easier because you don’t have to pay so much attention to distance between the lights, unless you’re going all out with the number of lights. Downlighting will usually only go on trees and tall poles, and the wires can be hidden close to the trunks. String lighting may be a bit more difficult, but it is also up to personal taste how many string lights will be in one area. A common way to arrange them is to make stable posts and weave the lights between the posts. They can also be hung up onto pagodas and other sheltering devices. If the string lights are battery operated, there’s no need for wire confusion, but if there are wires, they can be hidden alongside the poles like with the downlighting style.
Lighting Design in Your Yard
The most important thing about lighting is what you are attempting to illuminate, and that is where the design aspect comes in. For the canopy lighting, though it can be useful to highlight a walkway, there are other things you can highlight it with. Instead of lining it up next to a pathway, you can nestle it in bunches of plants to illuminate them and provide guiding lights to your doorway, or whichever location you’re leading toward. You could potentially also use string lighting to help, especially for lighting edges. Downlights are usually used to hang on trees and light the trunks, but they can also be used for lighting certain pieces that take the center of attention, like a fountain or a statue. With string lighting, there are a few options to choose from. There are fairy lights, which are tinier bulbs and shorter strings, globe bulbs, which are the larger, hardier version, and there are even Christmas lights available for ambient lighting.
If you decide to use the low voltage lights, you can also consider buying some timers to turn the lights on and off without worry. That way, you can achieve the ambience you want without having to remember to turn everything on and off each evening. Don’t forget about general upkeep either! Dust off your lights every once in a while, and make sure nothing has gotten into the parts. Get creative with how you’re using your walkway and ambient lighting and come up with something unique!
Are you ready to install outdoor lighting?
Now that you’re familiar with the two main types of ambient and walkway lighting, you can start planning out your own spring or summer projects! Not only is walkway and ambient lighting a great way to set the mood of your house, but it can make a backyard turn from a casual lawn to an outdoor retreat. Whether you choose solar or low voltage, fairy or canopy lighting, you can always stop by HomCo Lumber and Hardware for materials, tips, and assistance. We have outdoor lighting and outdoor lighting timers in the Electrical Department, and whatever bulbs you’ll need to replace in the future.
About the Author
Rhianne is one of HomCo's valued experts. When she's not writing a DIY blog or sharing more about hardware with our customers, you can find her in the Carhartt department. Stop by to say hi!